Sunday, 7 December 2014

Sensor size is the new megapixel race

The camera industry is in a crisis. People have more or less stopped buying basic compact cameras, since mobile phones take good enough pictures anyway. Also DSLRs are seeing less sales.

There are two areas which still see good sales: Premium compacts and mirrorless cameras.

Panasonic used to be king of the premium compact line, with the Lumix LX7, and the Leica rebranded version. However, Sony raised the bar significantly with the RX100 series of cameras with a larger 1 inch sensor.

Panasonic's answer was the Lumix LX100, with an even larger sensor, however, now the camera is getting worringly larger than the predecessor. Also Canon wants to take part in this segment, with their Canon G7 X, also sporting a 1 inch sensor. Both of these cameras have significant issues, though: The Lumix camera lacks an articulated LCD screen, and the Canon lacks an EVF.

Sunday, 2 November 2014

Nikon 30-110mm f/3.8-5.6 review

All camera systems have a cheap tele zoom lens available. Here are two such lenses, the Lumix G 45-200mm f/4-5.6 for Micro Four Thirds, and the Nikon 1 30-110mm f/3.8-5.6 for the Nikon 1 system:

The Nikon lens is seen here in a glossy orange finish. I guess it could have been worse, it could have been pink. Yes, this lens also exists in pink!

Wednesday, 29 October 2014

Electronic shutter readout speed

Many modern system cameras feature the electronic shutter option. This means that you can take pictures silently, without activating a mechanical curtain shutter. Rather, the exposure is started and stopped electronically.

The Nikon 1 series is pretty much built around electronic shutters. The basic J and S series of cameras do not even contain any mechanical shutter at all, you only have the electronic shutter option.

The downside of the electronic shutter is that not all the sensor is read at once. Rather, the sensor photosites exposures are started and stopped row for row, vertically. This process of starting and stopping the exposure, and then collecting the exposure data, can take around 1/10s to 1/100s, depending on the camera model.

The slower, the less useful the electronic shutter is, as you can risk rolling shutter effects, buildings appear to lean if you pan while photographing, for example.

Rolling shutter effects are not exclusive to digital cameras. Rather, they were present also with early film cameras. Here is a famous photo of a racing car taken in 1913 by Jacques Henri Lartigue using a 4x5 Speed Graphic camera:

The curtain shutter moves relatively slowly on this camera 100 years old camera, when compared with modern SLRs, which gives the distortion of the racing car. The distortion is especially visible in the wheels, which appear to be leaning forward. This rolling shutter effect was later copied by cartoonists when they wanted to give the impression of speed.

Saturday, 18 October 2014

High speed video, slow motion

Already from the start, Nikon 1 cameras have been able to record video at a 1200 frames per second rate, which is very fast. A normal video frame rate is 30 FPS, in NTSC countries, so you are able to record videos 40 times as fast.

This can be used to make interesting slow motion videos. In this example, I used a Nikon 1 J1 to record the mechanical shutter of the Lumix GM1 camera.

The newest Nikon 1 V3 camera also has the high speed video feature. It can record 1200 FPS, without audio, and in an unusual 416x144 pixel resolution. When the video recording is started, it lasts only for 3 seconds, so the timing of the start of the video is crucial.

Saturday, 11 October 2014

Comparison of normal lenses, Nikon 18.5mm f/1.8 vs Leica 25mm f/1.4

Some decades ago, when film SLR cameras became popular, the 50mm lens was abundant. Due to the long register distance of SLR cameras, the 50mm lens was the shortest which could be designed cheaply with a large aperture, which is why it became so popular. It became the standard lens people bought with an SLR camera, the normal lens.

Nowadays, the kit zoom lens has become the normal lens, but the field of view corresponding to a traditional 50mm lens is still popular. So most manufacturers release a fast "normal lens" when they invest into a new lens mount. In this article, I will compare two normal lenses for two different systems, the Nikon 18.5mm f/1.8 for Nikon 1, and the Leica 25mm f/1.4 for Micro Four Thirds:

LensNikon 18.5mm f/1.8Leica 25mm f/1.4
AnnouncedSep 13th, 2012Jun 13th, 2011
System crop factor2.72
Equivalent focal length50mm50mm
Maximum aperturef/1.8f/1.4
Equivalent max aperture, in terms of DoFf/4.8f/2.8
Filter thread40.5mm46mm
Minimum focus0.20m0.30m
Lens elements/groups8/69/7
Hood includedNo, HB-N104Yes
Focus ringNoYes

Both correspond to 50mm field of view on a 135 film camera, and both are quite fast, with large maximum apertures:

Sunday, 14 September 2014

Nikon 1 lens lineup

The Nikon 1 format is still fairly new, but they have managed to launch a respectable lens lineup already, covering most photographic needs. Here is an overview over the existing lenses that fit the Nikon 1 CX system.

Saturday, 30 August 2014

Wide angle prime lenses compared

The classic 28mm prime lens is a natural part of any lens lineup. Most kit zoom lenses include the 28mm equivalent in the wide end, but you can also get prime (non-zoom) lenses with the same field of view.

Below are three such lenses, for three different interchangeable lens systems. How do they compare?

From left to right: Sigma 19mm f/2.8 (old style) mounted to a Sony NEX-3N, Lumix G 14mm f/2.5 mounted to a Lumix GM1, and Nikon 1 10mm f/2.8 mounted to a Nikon 1 V3 with a user optional EVF.

Thursday, 14 August 2014

Birds in flight with the CX 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6

When Nikon launched the Nikkor 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 (my review), I thought the Nikon 1 system finally made sense. What they made was one of the most compact lens suitable for bird photography, combined with the very fast and capable PDAF technology and the fast frame rate. This makes the system well suited for photographing birds in flight.

The purpose of this article is to share my experience with using the lens in combination with the Nikon 1 V3 camera. People who consider to buy the lens can see my experience here. And seasoned users can help me improve my technique.

Tuesday, 12 August 2014

3D stereo images with Nikon 1 J1's

Some first generation Nikon 1 camera kits are available at fire sale prices, and I was tempted to pick up a pair of Nikon 1 J1's in kits with the Nikkor 10mm f/2.8 pancake wide angle lenses.

Mounting them to a Desmond Mini Dual Camera Bracket, it is easy to set them up for 3D stereo photography. The stereo distance becomes about 120mm here, which is a bit wide, but quite usable:

I chose a black and red camera. This makes it easy to remember to put the red camera on the left side.

Also note the Nikon ML-L3 IR remote in the foreground. It is crucial for the 3D photos, as it is important to trigger both cameras at the same time.

Sunday, 10 August 2014

Pancake zoom lenses compared

Panasonic announced the Lumix X PZ 14-42mm pancake zoom lens (my review) in 2011. Since this time, a collapsible pancake zoom has become a must have kit lens for most mirrorless systems. I have previously compared it with the Sony 16-50mm pancake zoom lens, and this time, I am comparing it with some similar lenses from Nikon.

Below, I have the four lenses laid out:

From left to right: Lumix G 12-32mm (my review), Lumix X PZ 14-42mm (my review), Nikkor 11-27.5mm, and Nikkor 10-30mm PD

Thursday, 31 July 2014

Tripod mount for CX 70-300mm, TR-N100

I think the new CX 70-300mm lens is very good. See my review here, and further example images with the V3 here.

However, one problem, especially when using the lens on the Nikon 1 V3. I guess most serious users of the V3 will want to have the grip mounted. That leaves you with a thin, flimsy tripod mount which is not capable of supporting a long lens like the Nikon 1 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6.

You could remove the grip, but that leaves the problem that there is very little room to mount a tripod, as the lens is large and takes up space which is normally needed by the tripod head.

However, the obvious solution is to get the optional tripod mount for the lens itself, TR-N100. I think this mount should have been included with the lens, but it needs to be bought as a separate item. The availability was poor, so I bought it from Japan via Ebay. Here is the box, with a Nikon 1 10mm f/2.8 for size reference:

Friday, 25 July 2014

AF comparison, V3 vs GH4

The Lumix GH4 and Nikon 1 V3 are similar cameras. They are both the high end mirrorless cameras from Panasonic and Nikon, respectively.

Also, both cameras have some specific technology aimed to improve what has been the achilles' heel of mirrorless cameras so far: The autofocus performance during video recording, and for moving subjects.

Saturday, 19 July 2014

Nikon CX 70-300mm tested on V3

In my review of the Nikon 1 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 lens, I was testing it with the Nikon 1 J1 camera, with a 10MP sensor. Since this time, I have acquired the Nikon 1 V3, which is a more suitable camera for a long lens, with the extra hand grip, and the EVF.

With the V3 camera, I have re-run the sharpness tests. For the rest of the lens review, see my previous article.

I'm not sure if the image quality is better with the 18MP sensor in the Nikon 1 V3 camera. But the resolution is higher, which should make it better for an evaluation of the sharpness.

For a point of reference, I have compared the images from the 70-300mm lens with the Lumix G 100-300mm f/4-5.6 on the Lumix GH4.

Both cameras with lenses are pictured below:

As you can see, the Nikon system is much smaller, and should be easier to bring along for trekking.

Saturday, 12 July 2014

Nikkor 1 VR 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 Review

For years, I have used and written about Micro Four Thirds. However, when I first saw the Nikon 1 VR 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6, I knew it had the potential for being the perfect compact, lightweight birders lens. Prior to this lens, I honestly didn't see the point of the Nikon 1 system, beyond the mildly interesting fast frame rates.

Since I already have Panasonic's answer to this lens, the Lumix G 100-300mm f/4-5.6 (my review), I found it natural to compare the two.

I have also written about real life use of the lens for photographing birds in flight (BIF).


Here are both the lenses, collapsed, with hoods and cameras connected: